Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks visited Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, the location of a massive fuel leak that contaminated drinking water for thousands of people.
Hawaii’s Department of Health announced that the drinking water tested on Dec. 5 contained “high levels of gasoline and diesel range hydrocarbons,” while Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said earlier that week that “several thousand have been relocated out of their homes.”
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Hicks visited the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility on Tuesday and spent “nearly two hours with a team in the tunnels to get a better understanding as to what happened and what can be done.”
She also met with three military families affected by the leak, as well as with various Hawaiian politicians.
“At DoD, we recognize the need to continue to care for all affected personnel and their families and help them return to their homes in a safe and expeditious manner,” she added in a statement. ”We also recognize we need to double down on our efforts to earn the trust and confidence of the people of Hawaii in our ability to manage this situation.”
The facility sits above the Red Hill aquifer, which provides drinking water to the base and other parts of the state.
The issue arose on Nov. 20, when the Navy said there was a mix of fuel and water in a nearby tank farm, but officials did not believe the fuel leaked into the environment and thought the water remained safe to drink. At that time, 14,000 gallons of jet fuel spilled at the facility inside an access tunnel, and despite cleaning it up, people still reported bad smelling water and vomiting after drinking the water, according to ABC News.
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Days later, during routine testing for a local well, trace amounts of oil were found. The Hawaii Department of Health ordered the Navy to stop all operations at a Pearl Harbor facility in an emergency order last week.
Kirby said on Tuesday that there were no signs of foreign bad actors involved in the spill.